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Know Your Lore: Wrathion's duty

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

Wrathion is one of those unique and entertaining characters who appeared out of nowhere and managed a staggering degree of complexity in just a few short years in game. Although he was not introduced by name until the tail end of Cataclysm, his origins began when the expansion revamped level 1-60 content and consequentially introduced a bizarre and touching origin story in the Badlands. It wasn't until the legendary quest chain for rogues that we got a real look at Wrathion, newly hatched and remarkably intelligent for his age.

Once his tasks for rogues were over at the end of the expansion, Wrathion departed -- and then promptly showed up again in Mists of Pandaria, in a far more extensive role that stretched the length of the expansion, and beyond. But one thing has always been incredibly unclear -- exactly what Wrathion is up to, and why he is doing what he's doing. He's given us a reasonable enough answer, but can we really trust the last remaining member of a dragonflight known for lies, deceit, and evil, even if he is supposedly uncorrupted?

Please note: The following column contains spoilers for War Crimes. If you're mid-book, or have yet to read it, you might want to come back when you're finished with it.


Wrathion

That's the main problem with Wrathion -- we have no real frame of reference to even begin to understand him at all. We've never dealt with dragons just out of the shell beyond whelps found and killed for questing. We've never encountered a black dragon that was free of the corruption that drove Neltharion into madness. And because of this, we have absolutely no idea whether or not Wrathion can be trusted at all -- certainly, he's made good on his promises of valuable rewards, and he's entrusted us with fairly sensitive information. He's given us plenty of reason to trust him, reassured us that he has Azeroth's best interests at heart.

But is that really enough? We have no indication that Wrathion is lying -- and we also have no indication that he's telling the truth. He kicked the war between Alliance and Horde into high gear, actively encouraging us to kill each other and cull the weakest, dead set on making sure the world had a strong enough army to withstand an impending Legion attack that he was certain was on its way. Yet we've seen no sign of the Legion at all. In fact, the only sign we've seen was in the vision that Wrathion himself presented to us upon our arrival in Pandaria.

Of course we know that the Legion will find its way to Azeroth again. It's inevitable -- the Legion has a fascination with Azeroth that won't be quenched until the world is destroyed. The Prophet Velen has suggested that the ultimate battle between Light and darkness will take place on Azeroth itself, which by all means suggests that the Legion will show up eventually. But we don't know when.


Azeroth

What Wrathion has made abundantly clear is that he is concerned with the safety and welfare of Azeroth. Why, exactly, he's taken up this task is unknown -- and it's almost a puzzle in and of itself, because the Wrathion we saw at the end of the rogue legendary chain in Cataclysm was far more interested in being left alone than anything else. One vision, the vision he showed to us in Mists, and suddenly he's far more invested in the world we're standing on than being left alone. But where did that vision come from? Was it in fact a portent of the future, or is the madness that riddled the black dragonflight not quite as removed from Wrathion as he would lead us to believe?

At the same time, it seems like we really should believe him, because the Celestials certainly do. The August Celestials are Pandaria's version of the Ancients -- demigods, capable of far more than they let on to us mortals. If Wrathion had been lying, the Celestials never would have given him their blessing, nor would they have willingly armed us with items to make us stronger. Given that, we almost have to assume that Wrathion is telling the truth -- that he has Azeroth's best interests at heart.

But we still don't know why. In between the deliberate building of aggression between Alliance and Horde, Wrathion has demonstrated a vested interest in the Titans, going so far as to investigate what relics and remnants he could find on Pandaria. Supposedly, this was to find items of strength to further augment our powers -- but at the same time, Wrathion's agents were independently investigating on their own, checking out the waters of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, the Vale itself, reporting their findings to Wrathion. And when push came to shove and Garrosh invaded the Vale, Wrathion did nothing about it at all.

When the Siege of Orgrimmar was said and done, Wrathion was furious, and said he would stop at nothing to prepare the world for the battle to come. It's what he did next that is perplexing as all get out, given what we know so far.


War Crimes

We knew, going into Warlords of Draenor, that Garrosh Hellscream would be escaping his trial, somehow. We knew that he would weasel his way out of the situation, whether it be at the trial itself, or simply escaping from prison once his sentence had been delivered. And there were plenty of clues as to who would help him along in that task -- the sudden appearance of the Timeless Isle, the bronze dragon Kairoz and his mysterious visions. What we didn't know, and what came as a surprise in the novel, is that Wrathion was working in tandem with Kairoz, and made sure that Garrosh Hellscream escaped through a portal that took him to that alternate version of Draenor's past.

For a dragon so intent on saving the world, for a dragon so intent on seeing the Alliance crush the Horde -- or vice versa -- it seems almost preposterous that he would deliberately aid in the escape of the one orc who escalated that war beyond control. Wrathion even pointed out, in his tirade after Hellscream's defeat, that he had originally banked on Garrosh winning the war until he turned the Horde against its Warchief and sealed his own fate. Why on earth would he help Garrosh escape?

In the novel, there was a moment in which Chromie pointed out what we didn't know -- what had happened to the bronze dragonflight after the events in Dragon Soul. According to Chromie, two factions have formed within the bronze flight. The first are the dragons who are happy to continue in Nozdormu's task of protecting the timeways, with the assistance of mortals to help keep the timelines safe. The second are dragons who think that the past should be altered -- to change the future, and make it something better.



Infinite possibility

It's also revealed in the novel that the Infinite dragonflight is still very much alive, thriving, and working with Kairoz and the Dragonmaw. We did not destroy the Infinite by getting rid of Murozond -- they're still out there entangled in time, and unfortunately, the goals of the Infinite flight seem to line up nicely with that secondary faction of bronze dragons that Chromie mentioned. Both new faction and Infinite show a willingness to alter the course of time in order to bring about what should theoretically be a better tomorrow.

And maybe that's why Wrathion agreed to work with Kairoz -- because he mistakenly thought that Kairoz could take Garrosh back to before the orcs were corrupted, and halt that corruption before it began, allowing Hellscream to simply slip back into history and quietly live happily ever after. If this was successful, there would be no Horde to begin with, and no invasion of Azeroth. Perhaps Wrathion mistakenly thought that by helping Kairoz, he could simply make the Horde as a whole disappear, and magically end up with that united army he wanted at the onset of Mists.

But Hellscream may be many things -- quiet, he is not. Wrathion had to know that Garrosh wouldn't simply let well enough alone and go live a quiet life with his family, right? It's possible -- which leads to a second, far more disturbing theory -- that Wrathion let Garrosh escape, knowing he would rally the old Horde and return to Azeroth with them. After all, Tong pointed out that the Alliance and Horde are not strong despite one another, they are strong because of one another. If that's the case, fighting a supercharged Horde ought to make everyone very strong, very quickly, right?

Did Wrathion know that Kairoz's actions were essentially creating another, second, alternate Draenor? Or did he expect that Kairoz would simply take Garrosh back in time -- our time -- and wipe the Horde from existence before it had a chance to begin? Is Wrathion really a friend to Anduin, as he professed in War Crimes, or is he simply using Anduin to further whatever goal he has in mind? And if Wrathion isn't concerned with Azeroth's future ... what is he really up to?

Kairoz says: What if it were possible to shape and mold time as you would a ball of clay? What possibilities await? What new worlds could we create?
Wrathion says: ...I like the way you think!

We don't have the answers to these questions yet, unfortunately, and we don't know if they'll be addressed in Warlords or not. But we do know this: the future of our world is in immediate peril, whether that peril be Garrosh Hellscream, the Iron Horde, the Burning Legion, or the meddling claws of a two-year old dragon that has yet to fully understand the world he is so desperate to protect.


While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore, Warlords of Draenor

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